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Lord of the lanes

18th September 2016

Arindam Basu

Kolkata is the heartland of Indian football. The leather orb had magical powers. It had the power to divide the city in two halves with standard bearers holding their respective posts. Then came a young man, whose first love was soccer. But he changed the by-lanes of the city forever. Bengal got a new Dada, who set a million minds on fire.
The lanes, by-lanes of this labyrinthine city had only one master. Football. And there arrived a new Prince in waiting. A staff and a ball was enough and the streets errupted in a throbbing game of cricket. The Bengali carried Sourav Ganguly like fire in their hearts and children flocked to cricket clinics and camps. Suddenly, a giant share of the streets went to the gentleman's game.
Cricket has evolved faster than civilization itself on these otherwise languid streets. A wood, a hardbound exercise book, a slice of bamboo staff and a rubber ball was enough. Sometimes, old newspaper rolled into a ball and tied with strings would suffice. The prudes would ask how about a wicket, and the lords of the lanes would show a piller of bricks, or a wall with three staff drawn like cave paintings.
At one point I took part in these street carnivals. One-drop-one-hand, double wickets, boundary on the square side only, underarm and straight back-- cricket came in all sizes and shapes. But one thing was common, the air of competitiveness and swinging of the t-shirt once the battle was won.
Now having the greys in my hair more prominently, as I drive out of my locality and hear a collective hurrah, I stop and take a peak. And there life is in flow. It is the competitiveness that mattered. It matters still now. The thrill of stealing a single, the prowess of trying a step-out, the adventure of shattering a glass pane.
In the end it's not just a game of cricket. I am ready for a toss...are you?